John Adams once made this profound statement:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” 1
Why does our form of government only work when the people are religious and have strong morals?
Can’t we all just live however we want? “It’s a free country” after all (as we all stated so eloquently in our elementary school days upon being reprimanded by a parent for some miscreant behavior). What does my personal character and behavior have anything to do with functionality of our Constitutional government?
I like to think of it this way:
Imagine the United States of America as a giant pyramid. We’ll start at the bottom and work up:
1) When our nation was founded, GOD & RELIGION were its foundation. Judeo/Christian principles prevailed as the backbone of our nation…socially and even politically. This belief in God permeated every aspect of society. And with the First Amendment protecting the freedom of religion, American religious sentiment thrived.
2) This God centered society naturally led to an American people who had strong VALUES & VIRTUES. They were honest and descent. They were industrious. They worked hard and took responsibility for themselves. They were also generous in helping those less fortunate, thus following the “Golden Rule.”
3) Therefore, because Americans prided themselves in these values, the PEOPLE GOVERNED THEMSELVES. They were not looking to government or anyone else for a hand-out. There was no sense of “entitlement.” They took care of themselves and their own in a spirit of self-sufficiency, independence, and compassion. Societal controls were at a minimum because the people knew how to control themselves.
4) So, what was the government’s role in their lives? Simple. They established a LIMITED GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT THEIR RIGHTS. That’s it. That was its sole purpose. Government played a small role, relatively speaking. It wasn’t involved in every aspect of their lives. It wasn’t in the business of “redistributing wealth” in order to “take care” of everyone. Government wasn’t the bloated, oppressive, unsustainable, multi-tentacled monstrosity that it is today. It was the proverbial “cherry on top”, instituted for the purpose of protecting our God given rights.
Thomas Jefferson explained the role of government best when he stated:
“[A] wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government…” 2
Viola! A nation that is stable and sound.
A little too simplistic? Perhaps.
But the principle is this:
Because our Constitution is entirely built around the concepts of liberty and self-government, we as Americans need to know how to responsibly handle liberty and self-government if we are to survive as a Republic. And how do we responsibly handle liberty and self-government? Be “a moral & religious people”…and the rest falls into place.
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book What Would the Founding Father’s Think in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win?
I will pick a winner once a month and you can pick one copy in eBook or Print.
1 – The Works of John Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1850-56), 9:228-9
2 – First Inaugural Address, 1801